how to Answer "Why do you want this job?"

Job seekers tend to hear a lot of the same questions: “What are your strengths?” “What are your weaknesses?” “Why do you want to leave your current position?”

Prepping for these is easy, because the answers aren’t likely to change from interview to interview. Figure out good responses, and you’re set.

Questions that focus on a single employer are also common, but they need more development. When you’re asked, “Why do you want this job?”, the interviewer is interested in how a certain job — this one, right here and now — meets your goals. The question provides a window into how you see yourself fitting into the particular team.

Even though you have to target a specific audience every time you answer this question, following a format makes it easier to prepare, especially if you anticipate multiple interviews.

Personalize It

You score points in an interview if you show you’re interested enough in the position to do some research. In a survey, almost half of employers said that they quickly eliminate job candidates who don’t know much about the company.

Company knowledge supports every other part of your answer. It’s easier to come up with a response when you’ve got something concrete to mention: You don’t have to rely on generalities or assumptions.

Preparation doesn’t need to be time-consuming. Focus on highlights from the company’s website, or ask an employee a few pointed questions (well before the interview, of course, so you have time to integrate the information).

Pump You Up

Your answer must be different each time you’re asked this question. It’s not about getting a salary, working in your degree field or liking the geographic location. Prospective employers want to hear why they appeal to you.

It’s not flattery time. You don’t have to tell an interviewer how terrific the company is — she works there, so she already knows.

Give specifics about the position, but do it in a way that highlights your education, experience and passion for the work. Match your background and skills to the needs of the position.

Express your enthusiasm for both the specific job and company. Don’t just talk about how much fun it’ll be for you. Explain how your keen interest will benefit the employer.

Use the question about the company to reinforce your awesomeness. This is the opportunity to demonstrate why you’re at the head of the class.

Get Schooled

Employers know that workers who are given opportunities to learn on the job are more likely to stick around. They also like to see that you’re willing to learn, so sell yourself as a lifelong learner.

Analyze the position, and think about how it will help you develop professionally. Even if you’ve done similar work in the past, what’s different about this specific opportunity?

The size of the company? The diversity of the staff? Perhaps you’ll be able to expand upon a skill you’ve only touched on before.

At interviews, you’re trying to make them want you and showing how much you want them. Employers like the acknowledgement that they’ve got something to give, too.

Look Ahead

Part of your response should indicate how you think the position fits into your long-term goals. This shows the employer that you’re planning on staying put. Investing in employees is always a risk. If they don’t put down roots, a lot of time and money has been wasted.

Too much turnover is detrimental to a company, so signal you want to stick around. About 250 job seekers send resumes for each corporate job opening. Employers want to be sure they’ll get someone who’ll stay and help grow the company. Incorporate your goals for both yourself and the company in your response.

Avoid Certain Topics

Of course you’ll be paid if you get the job. The employer doesn’t need to know that the salary and great benefits package are reasons you’re interested in the position. If something goes without saying, don’t say it.

Likewise, the interviewer doesn’t want to know it’ll be a better commute for you. He also doesn’t care if you’re desperate for the job… or any job.

It really doesn’t matter if you love the hours, either. Though salary, work-life balance and commuting distance are among the top five considerations for taking a job, that’s your list, not the interviewer’s.

Your answer should show how both employer and employee would gain through the merger. Despite how the question is worded, it’s not all about you.


What do you think of this question? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments!

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Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

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